You probably know what makes a great Harvest Moon game by now. Being left to your own devices, with the occasional nudge towards things you might want to check out, is the key to farming heaven.

The latest in the series, A New Beginning for Nintendo 3DS, introduces a huge number of new elements that genuinely add to the base experience, and breathe new life into the age-old franchise.

If only we didn't have to battle through tortuous hours of awful tutorials and locked content we might have enjoyed it. Unfortunately, any possible enjoyment is dulled by the first dozen hours or so.

Out with the old, in with the new

The basic Harvest Moon outline is still there, and still going strong.

You're tasked with keeping your family farm in check, looking after the crops and keeping your animals fed and warm. On the side, there's a town full of people to interact with, potential wives/husbands to woo, and extracurricular activities to get involved in.

Before you can tend to any of this, however, you're going to have to put up with many, many hours of slow, tedious tutorials, and barely any content at all.

A New Beginning may well have the slowest start to a game that we have ever experienced. For the first several hours, there's so little to do that you'll spend most in-game days simply watering your plants, tending to your animals, and then going back to bed at 8am.

It's an absolute nightmare, truth be told. You know that there's a ton of content ready and waiting for you to dive into, and you can see empty space and pathways all over the place that are ready to be explored.

But until you've slogged your way through hours of not very much, it's all off limits.

Long harvest

If you're able to snore your way through around a dozen hours of play, things finally start to pick up, and you witness the true potential of the game.

There are tons of customisation options, from the way your character looks to the layout of your farm. There are new animals, new crops, new locations, new Harvest Sprites, and new everything, really.

And chasing your preferred bachelor/bachelor is as fun as it ever was - as is watching the nearby town build up into a bustling area of discovery. This is truly a jam-packed Harvest Moon, with more content that you'll know what to do with.

But none of this matters if you can't bring yourself to slog through the first, utterly atrocious section. Why developer Marvelous thought it was a good idea to hide the good stuff behind a wall of shallow, bare repetition is beyond us.

Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is great when it finally gets going. Until that point, however, it's barely even a game.